This past Sunday, we examined Luke 7: 11-17 in which Jesus encounters the widow from the town of Nain. We discussed the incredible burden of grief she must have been experiencing at that moment, after having lost both loves of her life – her husband and her only son.
When Jesus encounters her, Luke tells us, he is ‘filled with compassion’. That word compassion is an extremely intense word. It would be the equivalent today to watching someone you love go through an extremely painful situation and to say, “This is ‘tearing me up inside’.”
The story gives us a window into an important element of Christian Theology – what we often refer to as the incarnation. Its the idea that God was in Jesus experiencing the hurt, pain, sadness, sorrow of the world – from the INSIDE. That in Jesus, we do not serve a God who doesn’t understand what its like to live on this sin-stained planet, with all its sickness, sorrow, and grief. Jesus knows the hurt we feel as an insider, as someone who has been here and knows it first hand.
And the quintessential example of this is the Cross of Christ. The cross is the place where the ‘sorrow of heaven joined with the anguish of earth’. That when Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me” it was more than ‘fulfilling prophecy by quoting Psalm 22’. . . Jesus, at that moment, experienced the full weight of human sin. Jesus felt the ugliness of abuse and genocide. . . of rejection and loneliness. . . of broken bodies and broken relationships.
The late John Stott captures this best in his book, “Why I Am a Christian.” It is my hope that his words would resonate with you, regardless of what difficulties you might be experiencing at the moment.
“Why am I a Christian? One reason is the cross of Christ. Indeed, I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. It is the cross that gives God credibility. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche (the 19th century German philosopher) ridiculed as ‘God on the cross’. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?
In the course of my travels I have entered a number of Buddhist temples in different Asian countries. I have stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing around his mouth, serene and silent, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time, after a while, I have had to turn away. And in my imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged into Godforsaken darkness.
The crucified one is the God for me!! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us, dying in our place in order that we might be forgiven. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes Divine suffering.”